Hisoundaudio HA2 Review
Hisoundaudio is a company i always think of as a DAP maker but they produce a heap of earphones too. Curiously they also make their own BA (Balanced Armature) drivers which is almost unheard of as most of made by Knowles and Sonion. If you want to know how they held up then read on.
Thanks to Hisoundaudio for the sample.
Oh, it’s a little bity box, Jesus trying to open the thing. Its very sung fitting a box and very thick card too. Once open, there are the buds, under them is a space for tips and such. What, no case? Noo surely not. No really, there is no case are you kidding me??? I realise its easy to get on ebay for a couple of quid but it’s an unusual omission. N.B. Well you are supposed to get one, I don’t know why mine didn’t.
Anyway the buds look rather interesting. With their long, fixed metal strain relief I’m sure I’ve seen this exact design somewhere before haven’t I? Well I can’t think on what but away, it’s different, visually form most things and I’m not sure I love it. However it’s pretty handy for removing them from you ears though.
Speaking of which… in they go and they sound alright. They are so clean and simple compared to most of the things I’ve had in my ears lately. Like going from some crazed medieval banquet then joining some simple monastic order. So plain, so simple, such non extravagance. There is an honest and humble purity to it.
FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
For a single BA driver they are really quite full bodied. Sonically it many ways I want to compare them to the GR07 however in the bass these do not quite share its ability to reach deep and rumble. Physically the BA just can’t shift air quite the same but otherwise its remarkably GR07 like. It’s gently warmed a touch but it’s lithely nimble despite its slight richness. Acoustic Jazz and the like are more than a touch masterful. It’s a smidge more clear than what the dynamic GR07 can muster though. This feels the more relaxed, somewhat less urgent despite being actually quicker, for a BA its smooth and laidback. Natural, acoustic sounding stuff are all excellent. Though as you move into synthetic sounds, pop-tastic type bass and I find I’m being quickly drawn to warmer, thicker sources. With the crisp Studio it’s a little trying to be fast and punchy, it just doesn’t, it can’t seem to handle punching and thickness at the same time. Slower sources play to its inclination towards the thick. I kept having to force myself back to faster music which is curious for a BA. Its bass was good, and while faster than the GR07 it still wanted to go slower, more smoothly rounded bass notes. The sort of more natural, double bass type lows. Mariah Carey’s “My All” found its way back time and again into my playlist. Its rich gentle lows were just what the HA2 loved and where it shone best.
Quantity wise its bass is a bit elevated, it’s a rather natural sounding sound signature balance. Its fractionally boosted above a truly natural sound but it’s so easy on the ear.
The mids are where the HA2 probably shines most. Its smooth, it’s a touch buttery in the way a BA can do. The detail levels are high despite its richness, not unlike the GR07 again but this time it’s more liquid and has that upfront, not quite but somehow intimate yet softly delicate vocal that BA’s do so very well. Pulling out breathy vocals it displays all that ought to be breathy without being so, staying that touch creamy with all the accuracy and detail you would expect. There is something very pure feeling to it, somehow unadulterated. I know in my head it’s not a paragon of accurate and unflavoured playback but my ears really couldn’t care less. You see I know it’s not unflavoured, I know what it’s doing, I know its fractionally obscuring things with its gentle smoothness but yet it gives the allusion of being tonally forward and has a sumptuous vocal quality. It works with everything too. Well almost everything, the most mediocre poppy vocals wanted to err towards shouty and narrow.
Quantity wise they are in the “natural” range so a tiny bit behind the bass but ahead of the highs.
These are no treble monsters. In terms of detail they can be really rather good, when powered and when not being thrown everything at once. Again I am drawn to the GR07 as its natural comparison. Though when you really begin to push the HA2 its BA heart shows up the issue BA’s have. They are too digital and they just don’t want to give a more natural level of decay. They therefore can become rather focused and the more you push it, in quantity and in volume the more treble assertive it gets. Owl City’s “The Bird And The Worm” when it really gets going the middling to lowerish treble ranges begin to get a little too prominent for my ears. Especially with bright sources like the Studio V. This meant for me that I liked its balance most when it was coming at lower volume levels.
The deepest delving into its detail however is on paper great. The GR07’s dynamic has a much more natural timbre but the BA gives you pin crisp accuracy. You’ll get back what you feed it, dead on which can feel a little unnatural if you’ve never encountered a BA before. Like someone has set the audio contrast to full.
Weirdly big for a BA yet retains its ability to make vocals still give the illusion of intimacy when they don’t feel in your face or up close. These really feel like they have put the GR07 in its sights as a bar to aim at. It does it too, what you get from a slightly sealed dynamic they have manged to pretty bang on replicate in a totally sealed BA. There is a real impression of some space to move around in. Its instrument separation is also really good, pretty well integrated but the vocals in particular feel somewhat more separate. They are very cleanly rendered apart from other instrumentation.
Fine. I slapped on the big foamy tips and I could wear them up just fine, though their shape on the whole implied they were meant for down but it worked okay up. The only thing to note is that for an IEM and especially for a BA IEM they are very shallow fitting. Don’t try to make them sit deep, they just don’t do it which makes for a great big air pocket in which for footfalls to resonate.
Good. I found that their beguiling gentility got a little tiring on my ears after a while. While I enjoyed turning them up they would start to feel demanding and the great big air pocket, resonating with every foot step got tiring on my ear too.
Cable noise, worn up nothing. Worn down not much. However the footfall impacts were big and loud. If you walk slamming your heal down you’ll soon be stopping that.
It’s a braided something with a black plastic sheet of some kind over it. It’s flexible and feels quite nice to the touch. Visually it’s nothing special, just a bumpy black cable.
These remind me of something but I can’t place what. Whatever it is I’m not wowed by their looks. I mean they aren’t ugly or anything but having seen such a rash of lookers lately these are at the not particularly attractive end of the spectrum. Of course looks don’t matter or you might love their look.
Everything would seem to be rather nicely built. The buds and cable seem all good though really time is the only true way to tell but I have nothing obvious to complain about.
Like a few things that I have seen lately, they seem to be tuned with lesser sources in mind and tonally I felt them to be actually at their most friendly when they were just playing from a phone. Feeding them gobs of power, just drew out that lower treble tendency to get a little every excited. With a phone in play. Well that didn’t happen and they, over all moved to a fractionally more low centric sound. I’d suggest that’s the sound most consumers would be seeking. So if you have them don’t feel like you need to get an amp, you really aren’t especially gaining a ton to justify the money. That said out of the Solo, they were easily at their best in terms of detail extraction.
Now I see that someone else wrote these don’t isolate well, I instantly ran to the foamie tips but I don’t know what he did to claim that. I found their isolation to be great. They aren’t Ety’s but given how very shallow they sit they isolated much better than I’d have presumed them to. I’d be happy using these on any commute, even Tube or flights. Just remember you won’t hear mechanical death machines 6 inches behind you so use your eyes or get a donor card.
Well the retailer with them suggest they came with a nice little case. Mine however did not but I’m going to just assume that’s down to some pre proper release mishap. Otherwise you mostly get a heap of tips and a cable Velcro wrap thing, including 3 pairs of foam tips though due to the shallow fit they want I had to use the big ones.
Well, all through I’ve been mentioning the GR07. A big part of why is that they cost the exact same price. The GR07 were widely regarded as great buys, great generalists, just great all-round. The HA2 as best as I can tell are simply a BA manifestation of them. They share so many similarities and thusly if the GR07 is great value then these must also be. Keep in mind these have the added bonus of isolating well too.
The HA2 is basically the BA version of the GR07. I keep flicking back and forth, sure there are differences bet on the whole the sand so alike. Their balances, their ranges, their tone. You get the dynamic verses BA differences, the dynamic is more open and airy, the BA is more pure and direct. The dynamic shifts more air low down, the BA is cleaner and more polite. Its goes on and on. Now my sensibilities incline me towards the HA2, I love lightly buttered mid ranges and I like a slanted, warmed sound signature. Its al really quite curious in that it comes from a single BA. It’s a capable little driver it’s got in there. It’s not perfect as a generalist but it’s coming rather close. It’s got the generalist abilities of the GR07 but, a very, very important but……. its isolates like a BA.
Now I realise that the GR07 while it got universal praise, it then was immediately followed up by a bass heavy version. You see while I say it’s a generalist many consumers are going to find its tiny smidge above natural not enough. Even more so given its BA, non big air moving bass. So let’s call it a bit of an audiophile generalist then? A grand technical achievement for sure, Hisoundaudio have really pulled a rabbit out of the hat but…. you know you can get hybrids for this price and they do things as well. They can be rather more exciting too. They will not have the HA2’s sonic integration and curious tonal purity however.
So would I / should you buy one? It’s a budding audiophile winner for sure. It pushes every audiophile button it needs to. It can do everything well, has fab BA mids and it still manages to sound well scaled and full bodied. It’s a highly admirable achievement. Its bass is full and rich with a dash of warmth yet still has BA clarity. It’s on paper great, there really is nothing you can really fault it on. It’s a Tracy Chapman song. Hits everything a great song should, catchy, easy on the ear, melodic, well tuned but a thrill ride it’s not. The HA2 is great, it really is but it never truly lets rip and comes to live in a vibrant fashion. So long as your grand with a little bit polite, little bit subdued and relaxed then it’s a top option out there for your money.